Tanzania: ‘Queen of Ivory’ Case Pushed to Nov 15.


Faustine Kapama, Tanzania Daily News

Date Published

The trial of alleged Queen of Ivory, Chinese Yang Feng Clan (66), charged with leading organised crime and unlawful dealing in government trophies worth 5.4bn/- takes off on November 15 at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam.

Principal Resident Magistrate Huruma Shaidi was yesterday scheduled to start hearing prosecution witnesses, but the session was pushed forward because the witness who had been lined up to give testimony had encountered family problems.

The prosecution, led by Principal State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi informed the court that they had already examined the witness ready for the session, but when he reported for the court hearing the witness said his wife is sick and would wish to take her to the hospital.

“Given the nature of the evidence of the witness and the modality of arrangement of our witnesses lined up for testimony, we pray for adjournment of the hearing session to give this witness time to attend to his wife,” the trial attorney appealed.

Advocate Masumbuko Lamwai, for the accused persons could not raise any objection considering the seriousness of the problem raised by the witness. The magistrate had no other option than adjourning the trial to November 15.

Clan is charged alongside two other Tanzanian businessmen, Salivius Matembo (39) and Manase Philemon (39). The prosecution alleges that between January 1, 2000 and May 22, 2014 in the city, all the three accused persons carried out business of the said government trophies.

It is alleged that the trio bought and sold 706 pieces of elephant tusks weighing 1889 kilograms valued at 5,435,865,000/-, the property of United Republic of Tanzania, without a permit from the director of wildlife.

The prosecution alleged that within the same period and place, intentionally, Clan organized, managed and financed a criminal racket by collecting, transporting or exporting and selling the elephant tusks without having permit of the director of wildlife or CITES permit.

Within the same period and place, Matembo and Philemon allegedly furnished assistance and directions in the conduct of business of collecting, transporting and selling the said government trophies with intent to reap benefit, promote and further the objective of criminal racket. Philemon is facing a separate count of escaping from lawful custody.

The prosecution told the court that the accused person committed the offence on May 21, 2014, at Sinza Palestina Hospital in Kinondoni District in the city.

It is alleged that the accused person escaped from lawful custody of a police officer, who was holding him under custody on allegations of dealing in government trophies and leading organised crimes. Well armed criminals kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks, largely due to increasing demand in China for ivory ornaments and folk medicines.

It is reported further that most of the tusks smuggled from the east African country end up in Asia. International trade in ivory was banned in 1989 after the population of elephants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to about 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Some Members of Parliament (MPs) were reported to have said in 2013 that poaching was out of control, with an average of 30 elephants being killed for their ivory every day. In August 2011, Tanzanian authorities seized more than 1,000 elephant tusks hidden in sacks of dried fish at Zanzibar port and destined for Malaysia.